TAYLOR KITSCH KNOWS how to throw a party. The actor’s Rock the Brazos New Year’s Eve fundraiser for the African Children’s Choir was back last month to ring in 2018, with a full musical slate from the choir as well as singer Rob Thomas. But Kitsch also had a few tricks up his sleeve in the form of magician and mentalist Phoenix, who trained him for his role as Gambit in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
“Phoenix is incredible,” raves Kitsch. “He walked around tables and did tricks on stage. I don’t understand how he does it, but it makes you feel like a kid again.” Kitsch was also excited to show supporters where their donations go. He brought photos from his August trip to Uganda, where he toured the ACC’s new international school. “Not a lot of people have a lot of money to give, and this organization is really transparent, which is important to me.”
The children’s choir was among the first guests at Kitsch’s new home on Lake Austin. A self-proclaimed Austinite, he first arrived 12 years ago to play Tim Riggins on Friday Night Lights. “As much as its grown, [Austin] still has the tone that kept me here in the first place,” he says.
Kitsch’s career has grown and evolved as well. He had roles in two big fall movies: the action-thriller American Assassin with Michael Keaton, in which he plays a rogue ex-CIA agent, and Only the Brave, the true story of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots killed while fighting the devastating Arizona fires in 2013.
This month comes his most challenging role to date, that of Branch Davidian leader David Koresh in Waco, the Paramount Network miniseries that tackles one of the biggest tragedies in Texas history.
“It’s been two months since I wrapped, and I’m honestly still coming out of it,” says Kitsch of Waco, which also stars Michael Shannon. “It was an incredible experience personally, but as an actor, it was beyond a challenge, and that’s what gets the best out of you.”
His first big venture of 2018 is directing a movie he wrote. He’ll shoot primarily in San Saba, about 100 miles northwest of Austin. “It’s been four years in the making. We just have $3 million, so we’re going to have to stretch it a long way, but I love that challenge.”